Ghent is a city with a population of a quarter of a million. Its size and position allow the inhabitants to enjoy a city with an interesting crossover between open cosmopolitanism and the quiet atmosphere of a provincial town. Ghent is thriving as many young people choose to live here instead of in the countryside or the crowded and disintegrating city centers of Brussels and Antwerp.
Ghent is a city of history. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe. It was once considered the second largest city north of the alps, after Paris. The impact of this rich past can be clearly seen when viewing the imposing architecture of churches and the houses of rich traders. The whole of the city center is restored in this fashion, and still breathes the atmosphere of a thriving late-medieval city state. As the city council made the center free of cars, it is now a very welcoming and open area, which does not fail to impress even the people who live there.
Ghent is also a university city with more than 60,000 students. As such, its streets are filled with young people. But, unlike Leuven, another university town in Flanders, youth is not the only category of people living there. There is an interesting mixture of foreigners who came to live there, or artists, amongst the native people of Ghent. Interestingly, other than the smaller provincial cities or the bigger city of Antwerp, this mixture makes the people more tolerant and open-minded. This atmosphere seeps into every aspect of city life. Many people of Ghent truly see the place like home, and are very proud to live there, seeing it as a place that will always welcome them back home.
Ghent is only a 1 hour 30-minute train ride away from Brussels and is on the line from Brussels to Bruges and the coast. If you're planning to visit Bruges and Brussels, definitely stop over in Ghent as well. There are also frequent direct trains to Brussels Airport, Antwerp, Lille and many local destinations. There is one daily Thalys to Brussels/Paris and Ostend.
There are two main train stations in Ghent: Gent-Dampoort and Gent-Sint-Pieters. Gent-Sint-Pieters is served by all trains passing Ghent, while Gent-Dampoort only serves the line towards/from Antwerp. During morning rush hour, expect crowded trains from smaller cities towards Ghent, and from Ghent to Brussels and Antwerp, while the inverse directions get crowded during evening rush hour. Finding a seating is problematic at these times, but standing places get rarely filled up. Also during summer holidays and sunny weekends, trains between Ghent and the coast may also get extremely crowded.
The Gent-St-Pieters train station gets extremely crowded on late Friday afternoon during the University-teaching period (roughly mid-September-December and February-May), so allow enough time to buy tickets and/or get to the platforms.
Fastest trains in Belgium are indicated on (electronic) timetables with “IC”, followed by “IR” trains, while “L” trains are slowest and have most intermediate stops. This is especially important for travelers between Ghent and Bruges, as the train with indication “Brugge “ is a “L” train, while at about the same time also a faster train indicated as “Brugge-Oostende” leaves Ghent.
If you're visiting from Bruges, Brussels or Antwerp during the weekend, it's much cheaper to get a return ticket (special rate: weekendreturn).
Saint Nicholas' Church, Ghent, as viewed from the Belfry
The dense highway network in Belgium allows you to access Ghent easily by car. Two main highways E40 (Liege-Brussels-Ghent-Bruges-Ostend) and E17 (Antwerp-Ghent-Kortrijk-Lille) cross at Ghent. Brussels and Antwerp are 40 min away, Bruges 30 min. During rush hour you can easily double these times.
Megabus  operate services to/from London, Brussels and Amsterdam. Be aware that the Megabus bus stop for Ghent is at the Campanile Hotel Gent in Akkerhage, which is in the south of the city. Local buses 65 and 67 stop nearby.
The center of Ghent is quite small, so you can walk around on foot. However, the main station (Gent Sint-Pieters) is not in the city center, but takes a walk of about half an hour. The best option is to take the tram, which takes you directly to the center in 10 to 15 minutes.
A bicycle is the recommended way to get around in Ghent. However, there are many roads with cobblestones that make cycling a shaking experience. Also make sure you stay clear of the tram rails. Nevertheless, you will see you are not alone on your bike: many inhabitants use bikes to get around. Even the former mayor uses his bicycle all day! There are many bike stands around to make it easy to lock your bike (important!). Many one-way roads are made two-way for bikes.
The transport system is Ghent is excellent and usually on time. A single ticket costs € 2.00 if bought in the bus/tram or € 1.20 if bought from ticket machines near stops, such ticket is valid for an hour's travel on all trams and buses. If you are planning to stay for a while, buy a pass for € 10.00, it is valid for 10 trips within the city and can also be used in other Flemish cities (such as Antwerp or Bruges). The trams are the quickest and most comfortable way to travel, especially from the railway station to the city centre.
Note that if the bus/tram stop has a ticket machine, you will have to buy the ticket there, as the bus/tram driver will not sell you one in this case.
You can also buy a ticket through SMS if you have a Belgian cell phone, instructions are on the poles at each stop.
The transportation company is De Lijn .
In the Lijnwinkel kiosk (located near Sint-Pieters train station), you can get free map of city and surroundings, with all bus and tram lines.
If you arrive in Ghent at the Gent-St-Pieters train station, you can take tram 1 (until 'Korenmarkt'). Journey time is ten minutes. Gent-Dampoort is located closer to the center (about 15 minutes walk), and is connected with the city center by several bus lines.
Belfort en Lakenhalle (Belfry and Cloth Hall), Emile Braunplein (Tram: 1 or 4 to Sint-Baafsplein), ☎ +32 09/233-39-54, . Daily 10am - 6pm. The Belfry was a symbol of the city's autonomy, begun in 1313 and completed in 1380. This municipal tower holds the great bells that have rung out Ghent's civic pride through the centuries. Take the elevator to the Belfry's upper gallery, 66m high, to see the bells and take in fantastic panoramic views of the city. The Cloth Hall dates from 1425 and was the gathering place of wool and cloth merchants.5€ adults, 3.75€ seniors and students, free for children under 19. edit
Sint-Baafskathedraal (St. Bavo's Cathedral), Sint-Baafsplein (Tram: 1 or 4 to Sint-Baafsplein), ☎ +32 09/269-20-45, . Cathedral: Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 8:30am-6pm, Sun 1-6pm; Nov-Mar Mon-Sat 8:30am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm. Mystic Lamb chapel and crypt: Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 9:30am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm; Nov-Mar Mon-Sat 10:30am-4pm, Sun 1-4pm. Don't miss this cathedral. Exterior of Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture with an interior filled with priceless paintings and sculptures, including the 24-panel altarpiece "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb", completed by Jan van Eyck in 1432. Simply spellbinding, this work was commissioned by a wealthy city alderman in 1420. Original Alterpiece "Adoration of Mystic Lamb" temporarily and partially closed. Since April 2010 a scientific study and conservation works are in progress. Visitors can follow the activities through a glass wall. Other art treasures in the cathedral include Rubens's restored "The Conversion of St. Bavo" from 1623.Cathedral: Free admission; Mystic Lamb chapel and crypt: 4€ adults (includes audio guide in English), 1.50€ children 6-12, free for children under 6. edit
Het Gravensteen (Castle of the Counts), Sint-Veerleplein (Tram: 1 or 4 to Sint-Veerleplein), ☎ +32 09/225-93-06, . Apr-Sept daily 9am-6pm; Oct-Mar daily 9am-5pm. Closed Jan 1, Dec 24-25 and 31. Built by Count Philip of Alsace, count of Flanders, soon after he returned from the Crusades in 1180 with images of similar crusader castles in the Holy Land. If its walls (2m thick), battlements, and turrets failed to intimidate attackers, the count could always turn to a well-equipped torture chamber inside. You can view relics of the chamber in a small museum in the castle. Climb up to the ramparts of the high central building, the donjon, which has great views of Ghent's rooftops and towers.8€ adults (movie guide included), 6€ Discount (groups of min. 15 p, +55 years, 19-26 years), Free: -19 years, companions of the disabled persons, € 3,00 Movieguide. edit
Sint-Niklaaskerk (St Nicholas's Church), Korenmarkt (entrance on Cataloniestraat) (Tram: 1 or 4 to Korenmarkt), ☎ +32 09/225-37-00. Mon 2:30-5pm; Tues-Sun 10am-5pm. A mixture of surviving Romanesque elements of the Flemish architectural style known as Schelde Gothic, the impressive 13th- to 15th-century church was paid for by Ghent's wealthy medieval merchants and guilds. In recent years, it has undergone extensive renovation work that's still ongoing. The tower is one of the "three towers of Ghent" - in fact, it was the first of the three to grace the city skyline.Free admission. edit
Vooruit. With its strong socialist tradition, Ghent is laden with historic buildings testifying to power of the social-democratic movement. The cooperative 'Vooruit' (Progress) was running shops, bakeries, a newspaper, a cinema and a cultural centre for the labour movement. Some of the buildings are exquisite examples of late 19th/early 20th century art nouveau and art deco. Main examples can be found on Vrijdagsmarkt (the headquarter 'Ons Huis' - Our House - still in use today by the trade union) and the Kunstencentrum Vooruit on Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat, cultural temple of the labour movement and today in use as an Arts Centre and concert hall.edit
STAM – Ghent city museum, tells the story of Ghent in the 14th century Bijloke Abbey. The abbey refectory shows pre-Eyckian wall paintings. STAM illustrates the story of Ghent by means of more than 300 historical objects and interactive multimedia applications with a lot of visual material. Temporary exhibitions reflect on different aspects of urbanity. The visitor can build Ghent in LEGO bricks. The museum is fully accessible for wheelchair users.
Rederij Dewaele Canal Cruise, Graslei or Korenlei, ☎ +32 09/223-88-53, . April to October, daily from 10am to 6pm, and November to March on weekends from 11am to 4pm. A cruise on the canals is a good way to view the city's highlights. The tour lasts approximately 40 minutes; longer tours are available.5€ for adults; 4.50€ for seniors, students, and those under 26; 2.50€ for children aged 3 to 12; free for children under 3. edit
Jan Plezier Boottochten, Snepkaai or Ketelvest, ☎ +32 0475 696 880, . Themed cruise, such as the pancake cruise (pancake boat), the spareribs cruise, and the shrimp cruise.pancake boat = 11.5€ for adults; 9.50€ for children aged under 6 to 12; free for children under 6. edit
Jog-Tours, . Jog-Tours offers you the opportunity to discover Gent whilst running; fun, informative, and healthy! Our tours are suitable for tourists and business travellers alike, however we also think that locals will enjoy learning something new about the city. We also offer great deals for companies who would like to offer their staff an incentive or as part of a team-building day. In short, the tours are suitable for anyone who is happy running 5km or more. Of course, we adapt each tour to suit the speed of the group. Our aim is to teach you some interesting facts about the city whilst having fun and getting some exercise without really noticing!edit
Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market). Vrijdagmarkt has been a fixture since the 13th century. It is the scene of a lively street markets on Friday (7:30am-1pm) and Saturday (11am-6pm), as well as the Sunday bird market (7am-1pm).edit
Ghent-Authentic, . Discover the 'real' Ghent with Ghent-Authentic. High profile local tour guides take you on a personal, customized tour throughout the city. Discover the highlights but also the hidden corners and taste some of the specialities alongside the way ! Think global, feel local !edit
Ghent provides an excellent and affordable sample of Flemish cuisine, which in the eyes of the locals is one of Europe's finest as it combines French delicacy with northern European sturdiness. Try some local specialties such as mussels, spare ribs or 'stoverij' (tender meat cooked for three hours in dark beer with a brown gravy) with Belgian fries.
Another dish from Ghent is the "Gentse waterzooi" (litt. "boiled water from Ghent"), which was the food for the poor originally, a stew of cheap fish (usually turbot) and vegetables. Now it is often made with chicken as well.
The restaurants on Korenmarkt and Vrijdagmarkt are generally reasonably priced; the menus and 'menus of the day' at the Brasserie Borluut provide terrific value and this includes Gentse waterzooi.
Upmarket restaurants are to be found in the 14th century quarter called 'Patershol', near the Castle. There is also a big Turkish community in Ghent, centred around Sleepstraat a bit further north, which is home to numerous Turkish restaurants.
Café des arts, Schouwburgstraat 12 (Near the Kouter). An absolutely delicious brasserie and still reasonably priced! Worth each cent. The food is mainly a blend between belgian and french cuisine. Each couple of weeks they propose a new set of specialities written on the blackboard in the back. Be sure to ask for the day menu. Very friendly staff. Reservation on weekends is recommended. 20-30€/pp. edit
t'Oud klooster, Zwarte zusterstraat 5 (Near the Veldstraat). A restaurant with real belgian food. The menu is small in choice but each dish is delicious and perfectly balanced. The current speciality is written on the blackboard. Bookshelves on the wall, dim lighting from the candles, old wooden interior and including a large table table with benches for larger groupes give thsi restaurant an unique rustique atmosphere. In the summer you can eat in the garden. Reservation is recommended as it's a relatively small place.20-30€/pp. edit
Mosquito coast, Hoogpoort 28 (Near the Groentemarkt). An exotique restaurant with food from around the world. Here you can choose to eat, drink or just eat some tapas. The food itself is very good, very original dishes with a lot of different flavors. The taste of the food takes you back for a moment to the country where the dish originated. It's like traveling, but cheaper. The cocktails are delicious and the don't hold back on the alcohol. Be sure to try the nachos with guacamole. Plus there is a bookshelve full of travel books that you can lend while you drink something. Reservation is very recommended.20-30€/pp. edit
Soup'r, Sint-Niklaasstraat 9 (Near Sint-Niklaas church). A perfect place to eat something small during the day. The propose all kinds of freshly made soups and sandwiches. The soups are original and delicious and can count as a complete meal. A couple of bread slices are served with the soup aswell. Can be a bit cramped at midday hours. 5-10€/pp. edit
De Papegaai, Annonciadenstraat 17. If you want to taste delicious fries and other snacks there is De Papegaai. The quality, the price, the portions, the vegetarian possibilities, location, ample seatings ... are all reasons why this makes one of the best of the city. Ask for "Saté kruiden" on your fries, order a side snack and enjoy! 4-7€/pp. edit
For authentic pubs, go to St. Veerleplein (the square in front of the Castle), the pubs around St. Jacob's church (especially during weekends), or the student area around Blandijnberg (Mount Blandin), especially in the proximity of the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, recognisable from afar by the 64 metres tall art deco Library Tower.
Waterhuis aan de bierkant (The Waterhouse on the beerside), Groentenmarkt 9 (near the Castle), Tel +32 9 225 06 80 firstname.lastname@example.org,. Boasts about 400 different kinds of Belgian beer, but is fairly touristy.
Het Galgenhuis (the Gallows house) near Waterhuis aan de Bierkant is a tiny tavern in a lean-to built on to the Gothic Butchers' Hall. A good selection of draught and bottled beers.
't Dreupelkot, Groentenmarkt 12 (near the Castle), Tel +32 9 224 21 20 email@example.com, . 200 kinds of Belgian Genever, a number of which is home made. Try the pepper genever if you are a tough guy/girl (be cautious!). Pol, the owner, is a friendly guy, altough it might look the other way at first sight. Around € 2 for a genever.
Hot Club de Gand, Schuddevisstraatje - Groentenmarkt 15b, is not a club, but a small, cracking little pub accessed down a narrow lane and has its own small courtyard. Barman told us it closes "when the last person leaves", famous for its jazz concerts and jam sessions. The same owners opened the pub Hot Cub Reserva, Jan Breydelstraat 32, offering food and more live concerts a few hunderd meters further.
Het Velootje (The Little Bike), Kalversteeg 2 (between the Castle and Vrijdagmarkt). Considered as the only tourist trap of Ghent but even with this negative connotation it's worth a visit! The bearded owner Lieven calls his place a museum café with an authentic atmosphere by candlelight. This is all true but forgot to mention his collection of 200 antique bikes decorating the place. Drinks are steep. everything costs €4.5.
On Korenmarkt, you'll find the live jazz pub Damberd.
Backdoor, Sint-Amandsstraat 26. The interior is as British as can be. They serve litteraly hundreds of rare beers and dozens of whiskys to the tunes of Oasis, The Doors, The Libertines and such.
Overpoortstraat is a street packed with 34 pubs and bars where during the week (especially Wednesday and Thursday nights) all the students go crazy. On Thursdays, it's so crowded that the dancing usually happens on the tables. Some notorious bars/clubs are Decadance (house, techno, drum&bass), Boom Boom (rock'n roll), Den Drummer (rock and metal), Twieoo (often new wave and holebi parties), Cuba Libre(also known as the Puta Libre)  (commercial, R&B,...), The Frontline underground concert venue featuring mainly metal, punk and hardcore concerts.
't Krawietelke , Graaf Arnulfstraat 1. Brown bar in the shadows of Ghent's famous Booktower, serving a wide array of beers, cocktails and liquors. Musically, there's something for everyone but with an clear emphasis on alternative rock. There's also a dartsboard, a foosball table and an assortment of board games. Though located in the student area, this bar is kind of an outsider among it's surrounding bars, having more in common with the bars at the Vlasmart and Sint-Jacobs than those at the Overpoortstraat. Live concerts on Mondays.
Porter House, Stalhof 1 (near the Overpoortstraat). The official pub for Erasmus students from over Europe.
Plan b Typical cosy local bar located in the center of Ghent. Nice view on the river. Street: Verlorenkost 17 - 9000 Gent 0498/10 66 03
Bloomingdale's, Ter Platen (next to Kinepolis cinema). Trendy cocktailbar.
Want to try some amazing bars you'll not find in any tourist guide? This is a great selection:
Het Gouden Hoofd (The Golden Head), Slachthuisstraat 96. If you find yourself on the other side of the canal, in the area known as "De Visserij", hungry and/or thirsty... be sure to check out this great place. It moved a while ago to an old slaughterhouse, have great dishes and the local beer Gulden Draak on tap is to die for. Still thirsty? This is not the only great place in De Visserij! Check out the cosy De Kleine Kunst and jolly Fabula Rasa along the canal at the Ferdinand Lousbergkaai. Drinks and food are generally quite cheap in this area.
El Negocito, Brabantdam 121. You may have heard about the beautiful "Red light disctrict" that Ghent has, better known as "Het Glazen Straatje" (The Glass Street). Just across you can find this lovely Chilean bar. Every week you can pick up a concert from a band of the associated recordlabel, you should try the lovely local cuisine and don't be afraid to try some of the imported specialities like Pisco Sour or Malta Con Huevo (Beer with egg). Although this place is somewhere between the city centre and Zuid-area it's prices are below average!
Hotsy Totsy, Hoogstraat 1. Not far from the Graslei you can find this pearl. In a roaring twenties style this place breathes jazz. It's a good alternative for the sometimes crowdy Hot Club De Gand. Prices are average to expensive, but the atmosphere is one of a kind.
Old Fashioned, Hoogpoort 19. Ghent doesn't have a lack of bars... but finding a good cocktailbar might be tough. You might be glad with some other cocktailbars near the centre that have fruity drinks with cheap alcohol and not a drop of fresh juice. But want a real beverage? Look no further. Old Fashioned is the only "Cocktail & Absinthbar" that is worth its name. All the classics in a beautiful Art-Nouveau decor, what does a refined person need more?
De Spinnekop, Einde were 44. If you have found this bar on your own you must have been really lost. The name of the street means "End of the world"... and it feels like it. This is Ghent's best kept secret and has existed for many years... but now it's in the open. This bar is what we call a "brown bar". It's a bit sleazy but clean nonetheless. The food is simple although the home made moussaka is amazing. Dirty cheap as well... It has the widely known beer La Chouffe on tap for €2, food is €12 max and has great vegetarian and gluten free alternatives. 90% chance that you will hear Bob Dylan or Tom Waits. Open every evening except fridays and saturdays.
Youth Hostel De Draecke, Sint-Widostraat 11, Tel.: +32 9 233-7050 Fax: +32 9 233-8001 - firstname.lastname@example.org, . This hostel is located on a quiet street in the city center. Free breakfast and bedsheets are provided. Youth Hostel De Draecke has a bar on the premises that offers a range of Belgian beers.
Hotel Trianon I St-Denijslaan 203, Tel.: +32 9 220-4840 Fax: +32 9 220-4950.. Hotel Trianon I is situated close to St. Pieter's train station. Prices start at €62 per night; breakfast is an additional €5. Each room has an attached bathroom. The luxury rooms are equipped with jacuzzi's.
Best Western, Cour Saint-Georges Botermarkt 2, Tel. +32 9 224-2424 Fax:+32 9 224-2640. , 'The oldest Hotel in Europe, since 1228'. Right in the center, near the towers. Recently, it was taken over by the American "Best Western" hotel group. Rates from €125 - €200 for a room.
NH Gent Belfort, Hoogpoort 63. 9000 Gante. Ghent, ☎ +32 9 2333331, . Located in the historical quarter of the city, this hotel offers 174 modern and comfortable hotel rooms, and is just a short distance from the Town Hall and many other famous tourist attractions. Rooms from 109€. edit
Brooderie Tel.: +32 9 225-0623.  Primarily a cafe & bakery, but with three rooms located on Jan Breydelstraat opposite the Design Museum. Shared bathrooms and showers with the cafe below but a cheap way of getting a fine room in a superb location - delicious bread with breakfast. €50 for a single, €70-75 for a double. Unfortunately will stop providing rooms in january 2014 due to new rules concerning the combination of hotels and restaurants. Still an excellent bakery!
Autour des Tours (Around the Towers), Limburgstraat 26, 9000 Gent, +32 (0)4188.8.131.52 . This recently renovated house dates from the 19th century and offers a B&B formula. No car needed here, this hotel is located nearby the historical city centre. Exploring the area can be done by foot.
Ecohostel Andromeda Bargiekaai 35, +32 (0)4184.108.40.206 . Low-energy, low-budget (beds start at €22) hostel-on-a-boat, 10 minutes walk from the centre. Creative, modern interior, surprisingly spacious and with better showers than many "land" hostels! Internet and breakfast available.
If you want to call to North America, find the "Club Plus" card. Do not be talked into any other card. They are usually found at the nightshops (Nacht Winkels). You can get more than 200 minutes to North America for 5 Euros from a payphone. This is great since payphones cost quite a lot if you just insert money.
In recent years, the number of Internet Cafes has grown very rapidly; it is always very easy to find one within walking distance. The going price ranges from 1.5 euro to 3 euro per hour. There is also free wifi on the Graslei near the center.
World War I Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial: 48 kilometers (30 miles) from Ghent in Waregem, along the Lille-Gent AutoRoute E-17. Open daily except for December 25 and January 1; 9AM to 5PM The final resting place for 368 American military dead lost during the liberation of Belgium. The chapel is inscribed with the names of 93 Americans whose remains were never found or identified. Free.
Bruges the world famous venice of the north, a 25 minute train ride from Ghent.
Courtray Kortrijk, a charming and historically important provincial city in West-Flanders, 25 minutes on train from Ghent.
Brussels Capital of Belgium, a 35 minute train ride from Ghent.
Ostend Biggest city on the Belgian coast, 40 minutes away from Ghent by train.
Liège 'The fiery city', most important city in Wallonia. 1 hour and a half away by train from Ghent.
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